Sunday, April 15, 2012

Healing



Over the last few years, I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about my life.  There have been tears, laughter, confusion, and clarity.  Just when I think I am making progress, I often feel as if I am right back where I started.  Hours have been spent questioning just about everything...love, purpose, career.  Yet, in the end, little made sense to me.  I knew that there was a great deal I needed to learn, but I didn't feel as if I was actually getting any answers.

Today, while reading "Women Who Run With the Wolves", by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., I thought about how so many of my issues have come from not fully embracing my true self.  The last twenty seven years of my life were spent trapped...by men, by career, by limiting thoughts.  Each day I tried to make and keep everyone else happy, only taking time for myself on rare occasions.  Trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be left me drained.  I looked desperately for meaning and connection, only finding it sporadically.  In return, there has been an ever-present restlessness - that of a caged animal, always pacing, looking for an escape so I could run free and live my life the way I was meant to live it.

I had fallen prey to the control of others.  My life was no longer my own.  It was lived for everyone else.  Slowly, I began to die. Without realizing it, I tried to pacify that yearning for freedom by looking for love, new careers, and reading lots of self-help books...searching outwardly for answers, desperate for knowledge, not understanding fully what was meant when others told me to look within.  But slowly, I have started to do just that.  I have begun to get still and listen.  I am finally taking the time to really acknowledge that which is my truth.

Looking back over the last several years, I can now see that this was a time for me to heal.  It has been difficult, exhausting.  But when the body heals, it takes time.  It taxes the system, requiring you to rest and slow down.  It is the same with the soul.

By honoring the creative spirit inside me and expressing myself through that, I will find that freedom that I so desperately need. I understand now that this has been a time for me to heal, to understand that the cage is now open and that I am strong enough to leave and run wild and free.



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What's Yo' Dream?


What's yo' dream? Remember that, from "Pretty Woman" with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere?  There was a man who appeared throughout the movie saying, "What's yo' dream?".

So...what's yo' dream?  What's yo' passion?  What's yo' purpose?

I'm sitting here watching an episode of "Oprah's Lifeclass:  The Tour with Bishop T.D. Jakes".  Oprah is talking about our purpose in life.  What is our purpose?  She says that if you open your heart-space, that by the end of her show you'll be on the road to figuring out just what your purpose is.

How many of us go through our lives, clueless, not really knowing why we are even here.  Maybe not even giving it any thought, but simply mulling through, day after day after day, until one day...we die.  Isn't there more?  Shouldn't there be a greater purpose than simply occupying space and contributing to pollution?

Oprah says the real job of our lives is to figure out why we are here and "get about the business of doing that."  She talks about having a stronger life, a more fulfilling life, and a better life.  I think we all want a better life, but most of us haven't the foggiest idea of how to accomplish such a feat.  We don't have a clue as to how to fulfill the highest expression of ourselves.  Most people trudge through their daily lives with one goal:  make it through the day so they can go home and numb themselves with a cold beer and a bad sitcom.  I've been there.  My poison is a glass of wine and an episode of "Big Bang Theory".  But is that all there is?  Is that really what we want to reward ourselves with at the end of a grueling day?  Mind numbing activities?

What would the world look like if we all aspired daily to fulfill the highest, truest expression of ourselves?  I'm reminded of a conversation I once had where I spoke about how important it is for people to follow their dreams.  The response from the person I was with was that if everyone followed their dreams, who would we have to be plumbers and ditch-diggers (or something like that).  But over the years, I have been amazed by people who LOVE plumbing and ditch-digging.  I personally would rather eat dirt than do those things, but those people have found their calling.  They love what they do, for whatever reason.  I find it hard to imagine anything that could arouse passion in me when discussing plumbing, but those same people who love plumbing might be bored out of their minds as I describe the emotions I feel when a symphony of colors is laid upon a canvas.

Think about the vast amount of humans we have on this planet.  Each of us has our own talents and passions.  Those things that make us come alive.  Even if those things don't meet with societal or parental expectations, they make us, as individuals, authentic.  Completely authentic.  Imagine if we all served this passion.  Is it possible that maybe we'd find ourselves living in a more complete and fulfilled society?  Perhaps there would be less crime and hatred because people would be living in an authentic way?

What if we encouraged this authenticity in ourselves, our children, our leaders?  Can you imagine the changes we might see in people who have lived the lives they were expected to lead?  What if the perfect sorority girl who married the perfect businessman really wanted to be a free-spirited artist instead of the uptight perfect member of the community?  What if the District Attorney had a real passion to build houses instead of practice law?  What if the CEO of that big oil company really just wanted to start a school to help students in need?  What holds them back?  Societal pressures?  Fear?  Freedom?

If we really stop and pay attention, we know if we are following our passion.  Do you feel called to do what you are doing?  Does it feel right when you are there?  Do you feel purpose?

How many of us really pay attention to this?  Do we take the time to stop and listen to those voices within us that are calling, first in a whisper, then louder, and louder....begging us to embrace that which brings us true joy and happiness....that which, if pursued, will reveal our true selves?  Can we learn to stop being what we are not?

Bishop T.D. Jakes says that passion and purpose are partners.  Your passion leads you to your purpose.  What do you feel drawn to?  I can think back to my earliest days....images on the television and in magazines...those of the mountains and the outdoors always captured my attention.  Creative endeavors inspired me.  Words thrilled and excited me.  To this day, I am not excited by images of city life or crowds of people. Exclusive, expensive restaurants are not appealing.   The simpler, more beautiful things in life are what draw me in.  I want to capture them in words and images.

When we live with purpose and passion, we no longer need others to validate us.  Our expression of our ultimate selves is all the validation we need.  Imagine the fulfillment, the joy, the peace.

So, having said all that.....what's yo' dream?  What's yo' passion?  What's yo' purpose?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Responses to my letter to Dr. Goin

A week ago, I wrote and sent a letter to my superintendent about the issues we face daily as teachers.  To this day, the post has had 88 views.  I've received nothing but positive feedback from teachers and others who have read the post.

Later that same morning, I received a response from Dr. Goin.  I won't publish his letter here because I don't have his permission.  But I feel it is important to say that the letter left me feeling empty and agitated even further.

Day after day, month after month, and year after year, I see teachers losing faith.  They are losing faith in the system, in their schools, and in themselves.  We attend professional development, look for solutions on our own, and ask for help from our colleagues and administrators.  We are at the end of our rope.  Seasoned teachers and new teachers are out of tricks, out of answers.  Nothing seems to work anymore.

Maybe no one has the answer.  Parents don't seem to have the answer.  They just shake their heads and say they don't know what to do with their children.

What has happened?  Are we so overwhelmed in our daily lives that we don't have the time to devote to parenting?  I think that is definitely a factor.  Each day, as I sit until at least 6:00pm working my second job as the afternoon daycare director at our onsite daycare, I see parent after parent coming in, thoroughly worn out.  To be honest, about one fourth of those coming in to pick up children are actually grandparents who thought their job of raising children was done.  These parents/grandparents come dragging in, always happy to see the children, but obviously too tired to go home and spend quality time, help with homework, and make sure the kids get a nutritious meal.

There are those parents who have meeting after meeting about their child.  These meetings are basically a repeat of previous meetings.  The child doesn't do his homework, she is constantly tardy or absent, he sits and does nothing in class all day.  At the end of each meeting the parents shake their heads, completely lost as to what to do.  The teachers, counselors, and administrators give them a tool box full of tools to help them.  That tool box goes home and gets lost or is forgotten, and the problem continues....year after year after year.

Some parents really want to do a good job as a parent but don't have the time or support to be the kind of parent they would like.  They are struggling to keep the lights on and have to work an evening job, so they can't be home to feed their kids or help them with homework.  Some of them didn't have good parenting role models and are simply doing the best they can, which isn't very good.  Then there are those that simply don't care.  Everything is the teacher's fault.  Their child would never do anything wrong at school.  There are elementary kids raising their younger siblings, doing the best they can.  School is the least of their worries.

Are the teachers at fault?  Every teacher I know spends hours at home or after school grading papers, preparing lesson plans, making phone calls home.  Our planning periods get filled with meetings and collaborations on how to help our students achieve.  Many times our lunches are spent in the classroom with students who had to miss their recess due to behavior problems or needed to come in for extra help.  We have duties before or after school and serve on committees.  We spend our days dealing with discipline issues and trying to prepare students for the test...students whose abilities range from that of a first grader to that of a 7th grader.  There isn't a teacher I know who doesn't work his or her ass off to help these kids be successful.

Our educational system is failing.  If it fails, we, as a nation, fail.  Maybe if we would hold our scholars in higher esteem than our athletes and entertainers, we might see success again.  In my opinion, our duty as parents and educators is to prepare our children to be successful, productive members of society.  With that, my hope is that they do so by doing something they love and are passionate about.  The way our schools are being run now, there is very little hope of these kids ever being productive members of society.  They are not getting the skills they need to be successful.  The kids who might have a chance at something in life are the ones now who are getting left behind because they sit in class while the teacher deals with all of the other issues of the day.

I feel that we need a massive overhaul of our schools.  Our kids are very different from the way we were when we grew up.  Their lives are very different.  The world is very different.  So why are we operating from  basically the same system as when I was in elementary school 35-40 years ago?  It doesn't make any sense.


Friday, April 6, 2012

La beauté de plaisir




La beauté de plaisir....

The beauty of pleasure....

The perfection of perfectly steamed asparagus, lightly salted, spring green color as vibrant as the flavor bursting in your mouth as you take your first bite, savoring each delicious moment...

The beauty of a square of chocolate brought to life after a sip of red wine...who knew the pairing of these two could result in such a triumph for the taste buds?

The intoxicating scent of a gentle rain outside your door, compelling you to stop, quiet yourself, and listen.

This is the beauty of pleasure.

They are simple things in life, simple but beautiful.

How many of us stop to take in the beauty around us?  How many of us absolutely enjoy the day that we've been blessed to experience?  How many of us appreciate every moment we have, truly appreciate it?

Regardless of your beliefs, we have one conscious life to live.   Each day is precious, meant to be enjoyed to the fullest.  We need to slow down and truly experience the joy that each day can bring.  Taste the flavors, see the colors, feel the textures of life.  

Live....

Live your life....

Experience your life....

Don't simply exist.....

Find the beauty of pleasure.....




Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dear Dr. Goin

Dear Dr. Goin,

As the Superintendent of my school district, I felt that you should know the truth about one of your schools.  I speak for myself, but I also speak for those who may or may not have the courage to speak for themselves.   From personal experience, I know the consequences of speaking up.  I know what can happen if you question or challenge what is happening in your school.  I paid dearly for five years after speaking up.  But honestly, at this point, I feel as if I can't afford to not speak up...yet again.

I don't know of any teacher who enters the profession lightly.  We come to teaching because we are called.  We feel a great need to educate the youth, prepare them for a future that is filled with promise.  We work to prepare our students to become productive members of society.

Dr. Goin, we work diligently every day, trying everything in our tool box and the tool boxes of others to help our students succeed.  We spend sleepless nights trying to come up with answers to our daily problems.  We search daily for anything that can make it click for our students...anything that will help them understand.

After fourteen years in this district, I have found that our jobs have become increasingly difficult, less appreciated, and much more stressful.  Besides having to deal with more demands as far as curriculum, we have to deal with a greater range of knowledge.  In my classroom alone I will have students reading on a first grade level all the way to a ninth grade level.  Yet I am supposed to be able to reach each of these students on a level at which they can excel and be challenged.  Then, I am expected to do daily interventions to help those behind catch up and get on level with the rest of the group.

In addition, I am expected to increase the knowledge of my students while dealing with those whose lack of concern for their education leaves my hands tied on a daily basis.  Furthermore, the majority of these students cannot seem to understand or internalize the daily expectations and requirements of school.  They do not do their homework, they do not study for tests, they do not put forth any effort in the classroom, and they do not care about the consequences of their actions.

They realize that, really, there are no real consequences.  They might miss some recess.  Their parents might get called but that doesn't really seem to have an impact on most of them.  Most parents seem to shrug their shoulders and say, "Yeah, I don't know what to do.  He/she has been like this for years."

Your teachers are exhausted.  We are desperate for answers.  We are tired of not being able to teach because we are dealing with discipline issues.   It never occurred to me, that as a teacher, I would be dealing with the issues I deal with on a daily basis.   There is little time to teach because we are dealing with things such as fourth graders wiping their excrement on the bathroom walls - finger painting with it.  Or pulling down their pants in the hallway and just sitting there, with their bare bottoms on the chair.  We didn't know we'd have to deal with students throwing scissors in the classroom or students threatening to burn down the school.  Who knew that apathy among students would be such an issue?

Perhaps we entered the profession naively.  Perhaps we are like ostriches, burying our heads in the sand.  I don't think so.  I know that every teacher I work with at our school works diligently, every day, to teach our students AND deal with the onslaught of issues that we have to deal with every second of every day.

We leave at the end of the day exhausted.  Depleted.  Yet, we come back....each day, with a new attitude, hopeful for a better day.  I don't know of a teacher at my school who doesn't start each day fresh.  We work our tails off, trying to educate a group of young people who, for the most part, couldn't possibly care less about their education.

I can only speak for myself on this next point.  At the end of each day, I feel like a failure.  A complete and total failure.  Dr. Goin, I consider myself a smart woman.  I work very hard to do my job well.  I will try everything possible to educate my students, to make their learning interesting and fun, but worthwhile.  And yet, at the end of each day, I feel completely depleted.  Empty.  Defeated.  I feel as if I have accomplished nothing.  In talking to some of my colleagues, I know they feel the same.

The future of our students is at stake, Dr. Goin.  If something does not change, you will no longer be able to stand before us at Convocation and praise the accomplishments of the students of the Edmond Public School System.  Again, I can only speak for myself and my school.  I know that we are considered the "red-headed step child of the Edmond Public Schools" but I feel that each of our students has value and there has to be an answer.  My hope is that you will take an honest look at the real issues we, as a faculty, are facing at our school.  My hope is that the petty politics that have been a dark presence for many years will take a step back and instead, those people can take a heartfelt look at the needs of the students and what we can do for them.

The teachers at my school work very hard at what they do.  They care very deeply for the children who are in our care during the day.  As our leader, we look to you for answers....

We are waiting.

Sincerely,

Kelli Thomas
Fourth Grade Teacher
Orvis Risner Elementary

I Quit.

Do you know how many times a day I wonder what would happen if I just walked out and said two words?  Two words?

I quit.

What if I decided that...

I will no longer put in 150% effort towards students who couldn't possibly care less.

I will no longer lose sleep trying to find a way to reach those who don't want to be reached.

I will no longer try to find fun games to teach those who don't want to learn anything.

I will no longer try to teach self control to those who won't ever use it.

I quit.

I quit trying to get you to turn in your work and not lose your pencil, every single day.

I quit trying to get you to treat your classmates nicely and with respect.

I quit trying to get you to be polite and wait your turn and not blurt out constantly in class.

I quit trying to teach you manners.

I quit trying to teach you any math or reading because you refuse to pay attention.

I quit.

I will no longer be so stressed that it takes me all night just to unwind after a day at school.

I will no longer worry that your test results are going to affect my salary.

I will no longer worry that I'm a failure because YOU refuse to put any effort towards your education.

I will no longer hate the person I become when I am at the end of my rope in the classroom.

I quit.

I will quit being so drained that I can't think straight.

I will quit being so tired that I have no energy left for my family.

I will quit being too exhausted to go into my studio and do what I love....create.

I will quit crying because I can't do anything more.

I quit.

What if.........................?




What happens when you take a break from Facebook?

Eleven days I ago I deactivated my Facebook account. The negative posts, political bashing, and idiotic memes were beginning to have an adve...